The Greatest American "Nonfiction" Books Since 2010

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 200 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

    The book explores the concept of the sixth extinction, suggesting that we are currently in the midst of it due to human activity. By examining previous mass extinctions and the current rapid loss of species, the author argues that humans are causing a mass extinction event through climate change, habitat destruction, and spreading of non-native species. The book offers a sobering look at the impact of human behavior on the natural world, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these environmental issues.

  2. 2. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

    This book is a gripping exploration of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, focusing on the disappearance of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was abducted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1972. The narrative weaves together the stories of several key figures in the IRA, including Dolours Price, an IRA member who became disillusioned with the organization, and Brendan Hughes, a former IRA commander. The book delves deep into the political and personal complexities of the conflict, revealing the long-lasting trauma and moral ambiguities that continue to haunt those involved.

  3. 3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

    The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. The book explores the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

  4. 4. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

    This book provides an in-depth look at the housing crisis in America, focusing on eight families in Milwaukee who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The author explores the role of eviction in perpetuating poverty, illuminating the business of landlords and the harsh reality of tenants in impoverished neighborhoods. The book offers a close examination of the intersection between profit and poverty, revealing how both are intricately linked in the American housing market.

  5. 5. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

    This book is a comprehensive history of cancer, its treatments, and the ongoing search for a cure. It presents an in-depth exploration of the disease from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The book also discusses the politics of cancer research, the impact of patient activism, and the complex and often fraught relationships between researchers, oncologists, and patients.

  6. 6. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

    This book is an in-depth exploration of the Great Migration, the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West that took place in the 20th century. The narrative is built around the personal stories of three individuals who made this journey, providing a detailed and intimate look at the experiences, struggles, and hopes of those who participated in this significant historical event. The book also examines the broader social, economic, and political implications of the Great Migration, shedding light on its impact on American society and culture.

  7. 7. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

    "Citizen: An American Lyric" is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of racial prejudice in contemporary America. The book, written in a blend of poetry, prose, and visual images, delves into the everyday experiences and microaggressions that people of color face. It also addresses larger events from the news that have impacted the Black community. The book is a powerful commentary on race, identity, and belonging, challenging readers to confront their own biases and perceptions.

  8. 8. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The book is a profound work that explores the concept of race in America through the lens of the author's personal experiences. It is written as a letter to the author's teenage son, offering him a stark portrayal of his place in a society that is marked by racial injustice. The narrative provides a deeply personal analysis of American history and its lasting impact on the African American community, with the author sharing his experiences of fear, violence, and struggle. It is an exploration of the physical and psychological impacts of being black in the United States, and a call for a deeper understanding of the nation's racial history.

  9. 9. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

    This book explores the experiences of families accommodating children with physical, mental and social disabilities and differences. The author examines various conditions such as deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigiousness, transgender, and criminality. The book delves into the challenges, struggles, but also the triumphs, of these families and how they find profound meaning in their differences. It's a comprehensive study of identity, love, and acceptance.

  10. 10. Just Kids by Patti Smith

    "Just Kids" is a poignant memoir that explores the journey of two friends in New York City during the late 1960s and 70s. The book delves into their dreams, struggles, and successes as they navigate their way through the city's vibrant art and music scene. It's a tale of love, friendship, and the pursuit of artistic inspiration, providing a raw and intimate look into their lives as they strive to make a name for themselves in the world of art and music.

  11. 11. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

    The book explores the rediscovery of a long-lost poem by Lucretius, "On the Nature of Things," in the 15th century by an Italian humanist and book hunter. This poem's rediscovery, according to the book, led to a monumental shift in cultural and philosophical thought, paving the way for the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and modern science. The book delves into the poem's content, which challenges religious dogma and promotes a world driven by natural laws and human innovation, and its profound influence on thinkers and artists for centuries.

  12. 12. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

    This book is a gripping true story of a WWII veteran, who was an Olympic runner before the war. His plane crashes in the Pacific during a reconnaissance mission, and he survives for 47 days on a raft, only to be captured by the Japanese Navy and sent to a series of brutal prisoner of war camps. Despite the immense suffering, he remains unbroken, maintaining his dignity and hope, and eventually finds redemption after the war.

  13. 13. The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

    "The Yellow House" is a memoir that tells the story of a hundred years of the author's family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America's most mythologized cities, New Orleans. The narrative follows the author's journey from growing up in the titular house in New Orleans East, a largely ignored part of the city, to her pursuit of education and a career as a journalist, and her eventual return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The book explores themes of race, poverty, and inequity in America, while also being a deeply personal exploration of family, identity, and place.

  14. 14. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

    The book provides an in-depth investigation into the crisis at a New Orleans hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It delves into the harrowing five days where staff, patients, and their families were trapped in the hospital without power or a functioning evacuation plan. The narrative explores the ethical dilemmas faced by the medical staff, including alleged euthanasia of critically ill patients, and the subsequent legal battles, raising profound questions about end-of-life care and disaster management.

  15. 15. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

    This book is a gripping narrative that provides an in-depth look into the lives of residents in a Mumbai slum, focusing on their struggles and aspirations. The author paints a vivid picture of the harsh realities of poverty, corruption, and inequality, while also highlighting the resilience and hope of the inhabitants. The narrative is a powerful exploration of the complexities of modern India, revealing the stark contrast between the country's booming economy and the grim living conditions of its underprivileged citizens.

  16. 16. Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman

    This book delves into the complex and controversial issue of mass incarceration in the United States, particularly within the African American community. It explores the historical, social, and political factors that contributed to the high rates of black imprisonment. The author examines the role of African American leaders in advocating for tough-on-crime policies and their unintended consequences. The book is a thought-provoking analysis of the intersection of race, crime, and justice in America.

  17. 17. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

    "The Argonauts" is a genre-bending memoir that chronicles the author's romantic relationship with her fluidly gendered partner, their journey to become parents, and their experiences with queer family-making. The narrative intertwines personal anecdotes with critical theories on gender, sexuality, and identity, challenging traditional notions of family, motherhood, and love. It offers a powerful exploration of desire, limitations, and the possibilities of language, pushing the boundaries of what memoirs can do and be.

  18. 18. Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood

    This memoir follows the unique life of a woman who grew up in an unusual religious family. After a financial crisis forces her and her husband to move back in with her parents, she reflects on her upbringing in a household where her father, a Catholic priest, held an eccentric and often contradictory sway over the family. The book explores themes of faith, family dynamics, and the struggle to find one's identity amidst the chaos of an unconventional childhood.

  19. 19. Atomic Habits by James Clear

    This book explores the power of small habits and incremental changes in order to achieve significant personal and professional growth. The author delves into the science behind habit formation and provides practical strategies to break bad habits and build good ones. Through insightful anecdotes and actionable advice, "Atomic Habits" offers a roadmap for individuals to transform their lives by harnessing the compounding effect of small habits.

  20. 20. Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

    This book provides an in-depth exploration of the opioid crisis in America, tracing its origins and examining its devastating impact. It delves into the lives of addicts, doctors, drug traffickers, and families affected by the epidemic, providing a comprehensive look at the complex factors that contributed to the crisis. The narrative also discusses the role of pharmaceutical companies and uncovers how the aggressive marketing of painkillers led to widespread addiction. Additionally, it sheds light on the black tar heroin trade, revealing how it has infiltrated small towns and suburban communities.

  21. 21. Dark Money: The Hidden History Of The Billionaires Behind The Rise Of The Radical Righ by Jane Mayer

    "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer is an investigative book that delves into the secretive world of political funding by wealthy individuals and corporations. Mayer exposes the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right, including the Koch brothers and their network of donors. She reveals how these donors have used their enormous wealth to shape American politics and policy, pushing their own interests and agendas while undermining democracy. Mayer's book is a sobering reminder of the dangers of unchecked political influence by the ultra-wealthy.

  22. 22. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

    This poignant memoir is a reflection on life and death by a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He grapples with the role reversal from doctor to patient, and confronts the reality of his mortality. The narrative explores the intersection of medicine and philosophy, and the meaning of life when faced with death. Despite his deteriorating health, he continues to find joy in his relationships and work, leaving behind a powerful message about the value of every moment.

  23. 23. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

    This illustrated memoir captures the story of a Vietnamese family who fled to America after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s. The narrative traces their journey and struggles as refugees, while also delving into the family's complex history and relationships. The author uses her own experiences as a new mother to explore themes of parenthood, identity, and the enduring effects of displacement and trauma.

  24. 24. Black and Blur by Fred Moten

    "Black and Blur" is an exploration of black studies, performance, aesthetics, and politics. It delves into the intersections of critical theory, social science, and philosophy, challenging traditional definitions and understandings of blackness. The book uses an array of topics such as contemporary art, music, and literature to deconstruct and critique the conventional frameworks of authority, identity, and culture. It presents a new perspective on the complexities of blackness and the potential for social and political change.

  25. 25. White Girls by Hilton Als

    "White Girls" is a collection of essays that explore the concept of "white girls" as the author sees it - a cultural and racial construct, rather than a literal description. The book delves into the author's personal experiences, pop culture, history, and his own identity as a gay black man. It examines figures from pop culture, literature, and the author's personal life, including Truman Capote, Michael Jackson, and the author's own sister, to explore themes of race, gender, identity, and the love and loss that comes with friendship.

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download